One of the tendencies Christians have when considering the ascension is we minimize its significance by thinking of it as a miracle, or another great feat of Jesus. However, when we consider the importance of the ascension of Jesus, we find that it is a significant event in itself.
The confession, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” is common in the Eucharistic liturgy. The apostolic preaching in Acts, models for us this confession. He has died, risen and “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. Acts 1:11” In the interim, between his ascension to the right hand of the Father and his return, the Spirit is at work. The Spirit is at work through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments.
The ascension has theological significance in the Epistles. Jesus is doing his mediatorial work on behalf of his people. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf,” (Hebrews 6:19–20) In his resurrection he is the first fruits of the harvest and going away implies a return. That one day he will return in judgment and salvation to fulfill the “Day of the Lord.” The ascension of Jesus is also the catalyst for gifts to fall on the church.
Psa. 68:18 You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.
The ascension is also significant Jesus has entered the divine Rest. All of creation waits from this, Jesus, however, can enter. Moreover, Ps 8, 110 and Daniel 7 find their fulfillment in his ascension as Jesus is the Melchizedekian priest-king who sits in the presence of God. According to L.D. Hurst, the ascension seems to be the focal point of the book of Hebrews, Jesus has ascended and entered into the presence of God on behalf of his people. (People and Place, Horton, p.4)
Jesus is resurrected but doesn’t resume a regular earthly physical work of preaching the Gospel. He ascends to heaven, an event that marks out a new turn in redemptive history. The resurrected Jesus is the presence of the New Creation in this world. The ascended Christ is the mark of a turning point, the age to come has begun. In this “already present but not yet fulfilled” tension, is the space the church occupies. Christ is present, but he is absent. He has risen, but he has ascended. The problem of the apparent absence of Jesus finds its solution in the presence of the Spirit who binds us to Jesus even though he is by the Father and we are here proclaiming the Gospel of the risen and ascended Jesus who will come again to gather his people to himself.
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. (Acts 3:19–21)